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NBA Deadline Watch: Atlantic Division

Moke Hamilton discusses how each Atlantic Division team is approaching the NBA trade deadline.

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Boston Celtics

The most appropriate question to ask would be who aren’t the Celtics aren’t interested in? The fortunate thing for the franchise, though, is that they are dealing with a position of power. With first-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas earning a berth in Toronto, there is objective evidence that the Celtics—who enter play on February 10 with a 31-23 record and the conference’s third seed—are progressing.

In terms of who is currently on the roster, David Lee and Evan Turner are each in the final year of their contracts – with Lee emerging as a logical candidate for a change of scenery. Despite being the team’s highest-paid player at just above $15 million, he is ninth in minutes played and hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Turner is a much more important piece of the team’s rotation, but the general sentiment surrounding these Celtics is that anyone can be had for the right price.

Armed with as many as three first round picks in this year’s draft (including the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected pick), the Celtics will be ready to pounce on any All-Star caliber talent that finds himself on the trading block. To this point, there has been nothing more than conjecture as it relates to the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Al Horford and Jeff Teague being dealt by the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. It should come as no surprise, though, that Boston has been constantly mentioned as a potential landing spot.

Expect more of the same, as they are a team chock full of quality rotation pieces and a franchise whose treasure trove of draft picks is precisely what any team looking to divest itself of a talented player would look to raid in return for a potential difference maker.

Brooklyn Nets

Without a general manager in place, the Nets have priorities aside from making phone calls to gauge what may or may not be available for them on the trade market. With Jarrett Jack lost for the season, the Nets have primarily relied on Donald Sloan and Shane Larkin for their playmaking duties, so a more reliable lead guard would make a lot of sense in Brooklyn.

Up until very recently, the prevailing sentiment from some around the organization in Brooklyn was that the Nets would stand pat at the deadline and attempt to augment the team’s existing core of Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez with a difference-making free agent or two. That was, of course, until a report surfaced suggesting that the Toronto Raptors had the hots for Thaddeus Young. With the team entering all-out rebuilding mode, the 27-year-old Young, one would think, could be had for the right price. As the Nets do not control their own first-round pick until 2019, it is safe to assume that any conversation revolving around trading Young and/or Lopez would have to begin with draft pick compensation.

Since Deron Williams was bought out by the franchise this summer, the clock has been ticking on Joe Johnson’s tenure as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Johnson and his $24.89 million salary makes him the league’s second-highest paid player trailing only Kobe Bryant. That huge salary makes Johnson difficult to trade, but as seen in years past, him accepting a buyout after the passing of the trade deadline seems a very likely outcome. One source close to Johnson recently told Basketball Insiders that the 34-year-old marksman is “as miserable as he has ever been” and would welcome a change of scenery.

One way or another, it is incredibly difficult to imagine any scenario where Johnson is no longer a Net come March 1, as that is the playoff eligibility waiver deadline.

New York Knicks

With the firing of head coach Derek Fisher, the New York Knicks have probably already made their February headlines. Phil Jackson has made no secret of the fact that the Knicks would like to upgrade every position around Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis (both of whom Jackson said are not likely to be traded), but he also admitted that the Knicks do not seem to have much of anything that any other NBA team wants. Jeff Teague and Brandon Jennings would both make a lot of sense in New York City. Still, it is difficult to see how the Knicks could get their hands on Teague and the Detroit Pistons may be inclined to hold onto Brandon Jennings through the trade deadline since he could pay dividends for them in what is seeming like a probable playoff run.

If the Knicks do manage to pull the trigger on a headline-making trade, it may have to include Arron Afflalo. Afflalo has emerged as a dependable contributor for the Knicks and has both restored his value and outplayed the $8 million he will earn this season. With a player option for $8 million for next season, Afflalo is likely to opt out. His productivity plus short obligation would make him an ideal get for a team that wants to improve its shooting guard spot for a playoff run.

Kevin Seraphin and Lou Amundson have little to no value on the open market and although Lance Thomas may, no team will return anything of value to the Knicks in a trade centered around anyone but Anthony, Porzingis and, to a lesser extent, Afflalo.

Although the Toronto Raptors currently own the Knicks’ first round pick in this year’s draft, fans of the team can look forward to July. Even without qualifying for the playoffs, with the progressing Porzingis and their improved play this season, the Knicks have returned to respectability and will certainly have their audience with difference-making free agents that hit the market this summer. The outlook is bright, even if the deadline ends up being quiet.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers enter play on February 10 having gone 7-14 since Christmas Day and that is considered a major accomplishment. With the recent additions of Ish Smith, Jerry Colangelo and Mike D’Antoni, we are suddenly seeing the semblance of a competitive team. Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor each seem to be players worth keeping, so it’s difficult to imagine the Sixers being willing to part with either easily. Like the Boston Celtics, the team has made a habit of stockpiling draft picks and will be ready should an opportunity to add an impact player present itself.

For the Sixers, the team currently has just $60 million on its books for this season, meaning that, if they chose to, they could absorb the contract of a player or two without sending out any salaries in return. Having that flexibility makes them a prime candidate to facilitate a multi-team trade by absorbing a contract or two. In terms of players that could be shown the door, objectively speaking, nobody seems more likely than any other. The team’s highest paid player is Carl Landry, who is earning just $6.5 million this season. Both Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan have had their share of moments in Philadelphia, but we are willing to bet the it’s another fairly quiet deadline for these Sixers. In all likelihood, the team will roll into the post trade deadline season looking to build some momentum.

If there is a deal to be had, however, expect them to involve a pick swap or two. As it currently stands, the Sixers have a whopping eight first-round pick credits between now and 2018, not including their own picks. Although all of those picks may not turn into first rounders, for the Sixers, it has gotten to the point where they simply have too many picks over the next few years and will need to actively begin consolidating them into an impact player or divesting them.

Toronto Raptors

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Things are awfully quiet in Toronto on the trade front, and for good reason. The Raptors will enter play on February 10 at 35-16 and trailing the Cleveland Cavaliers by only two games for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. What makes that especially impressive is that Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have essentially carried the team to wins in 14 of 15 games with prized free agent acquisition DeMarre Carroll injured. Carroll hasn’t appeared in a game since January 3.

General manager Masai Ujiri has traditionally been active on the phone lines, but operates in stealth. If the Raptors do make any moves before the trade deadline, expect it to be inconsequential to Dwane Casey’s rotation.

As of right now, multiple sources familiar with the front office’s thinking tell Basketball Insiders that manufacturing a roster spot in order to call up D-League standout Ronald Roberts remains a priority for the team. There has been some gossip related to Anthony Bennett and Lucas Nogueira, with those two names seeming to be the most logical casualties to make room for Roberts.

In the meantime, one source confirms that multiple NBA teams are keeping an eye on Roberts, with a call up expected to occur fairly soon. Aside from that, the Raptors do not seem likely to make a big splash this trading season.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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2021 Tokyo Olympics: USA vs. Iran – Men’s Basketball Preview, Prediction, & Odds

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Team USA is coming off their first Olympics’ loss in men’s basketball since 2004. In the post-game press conference after USA lost 89-79 against France, head coach Greg Popovich said, “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.” Leading up to this matchup, another contributing factor for the team’s loss was Wizards‘ guard Bradley Beal bowing out of the Olympics after being placed in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols during training camp. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Beal averaged 31.3 points per game. Regarding the injury report, as of July 27th, there are no reported injuries for these two teams.

Moreover, the USA’s second men’s basketball game of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is schedule for Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST). Unfortunately, the next two USA men’s basketball games are not guaranteed to air live on television in the United States. However, the games can be watched on NBC channels (delayed) and NBC’s exclusive streaming service known as Peacock. Plus, the NBC Sports mobile app will stream the games live. Free trials are also available for Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Sling TV, or AT&T TV Now. The game can also be watched via NBA League Pass. For betting on medal and group winners for men’s basketball, Bovada offers the best service.

Game Details

Date & Time: Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST)

Location: Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan

Availability: Peacock (live) & NBC (delayed)

Spread: USA -41.5 (-110) (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Over/Under: 166.5

Best Moneyline: USA -8000, Iran +2500 (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Team USA Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard 

SG: Zach LaVine 

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Draymond Green

C: Bam Adebayo 

Team Iran Starting Lineup:

PG: Mohammad Jamshidi

SG: Behnam Yakhchali

SF: Arsalan Kazemi

PF: Samad Nikkhah Bahrami

C: Hamed Haddadi

Bovada and MyBookie are two available betting sites for gambling on men’s basketball during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The best NBA betting apps are from MyBookie, BetUS, Bovada, Intertops, and BetOnline. With MyBookie, the app offers a $500 deposit bonus for new users. For the USA vs. Iran matchup, if an individual wants to bet on the best moneyline, DraftKings is another option as well.

USA vs. Iran Preview

Referencing Bovada’s Olympics odds, Team USA is the favorite to win gold in men’s basketball, with odds showing -250. Slovenia and Australia are tied for second, possessing +800 odds. With odds showing +75000, Iran ranks 12th for odds to win the gold medal. They could still win their fourth consecutive gold medal in basketball, but this team appears to be different from previous USA men’s basketball teams. Their performance against the French was pitiful. Anyways, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook, this past Sunday, USA opened as 12.5-point favorites versus Iran. However, yesterday the oddsmakers changed their projection to 29.5-point favorites. As of Tuesday, July 27, DraftKings Sportsbook has USA listed as 41.5-point favorites over Iran.

Team USA’s starting lineup in the Olympics consisted of Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Bam Adebayo. In the team’s 89-79 loss against France, with a total of 29 points, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led the team in scoring. However, Mitchell’s performance was not sufficient enough to carry the team. His teammates around him failed to contribute at a higher level. In 25 minutes played, Kemba Walker closed out his performance with 10 points and three rebounds. Marcus Smart also scored 11 points and made two assists. For the winning team, the leading scorer for France was Evan Fournier, finishing his game with 22 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

While the turnovers and field goal percentages were identical between these two teams, the difference-makers were personal fouls and free throw shooting percentage. France shot 21-for-25 (84 percent) from the free throw line, whereas USA shot 14-for-21 (66.7 percent). Additionally, France committed 17 fouls in the match, which was all right considering USA had a total of 24 personal fouls called against them. Despite small forward Kevin Durant scoring 10 points, he also fouled out of the game. This was another poor game plan by Coach Popovich. This was especially evident in the team’s consecutive losses against Australia and Nigeria during those exhibition games. Practice games or not, USA looked less than mediocre, never mind lethargic and disinterested.

Then again, Iran is also trying to recover from an 84-78 loss versus Czech Republic. Guard Behnam Yakhchali led the team on the stat sheet, ending his performance with 23 points, three rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes played. In 29 minutes on the court, Mohammad Jamshidi had 16 points, one rebound, and seven assists. For the Czech Republic, with 16 points, Patrik Auda led his team in points. While the Czechs out-rebounded the Iranians 43 to 33, they also had fewer turnovers. The winning team had 15 turnovers, while Iran had 21 overall.

The team came close to erasing a 21-point deficit. Iran’s past starting lineup was Benam Yakhchali, Mohammad Jamshidi, Samad Bahrami, Arsalan Kazemi, and Hamed Haddadi. Though, this is subject to change. The projected starting lineup is listed in the game details section shown above. Yakhchali will once again be returning as a guard, and of course, he led the team in scoring against the Czech Republic. 

Prediction: USA wins by 15+ points

Team USA is nearly a 42-point favorite against Iran. Based on their previous 89-79 defeat versus France, it is certainly hard to believe this team will beat a team by 40 points. Many bettors were not expecting for Durant to foul out, either. After their 10-point loss, Bovada adjusted the odds of USA winning their group. Now, France has the favored -550 odds of winning Group A, whereas USA has +400 odds. Though, between USA and Iran right now, the Americans are obviously the best of the worst. All things considered, USA will likely have their first bounce-back victory, but the question right now is, how many points will they win by?

Some bettors are speculating a 12-point margin of victory, however, others are suggesting 23 points. A prediction of at least 15 points sounds reasonable. Why? It’s because Iran’s men’s basketball team has lost multiple games already. In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Round (2019) for Group F, Japan defeated Iran 70-56. Then, Spain defeated Iran 73-65 later in the year. Iran losing 84-78 versus the Czech Republic just adds to this notable trend. Nevertheless, while some could say that Iran is due for their first win, so is the USA. The Americans have not lost multiple games since 2004. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the USA lost 92-73 versus Puerto Rico, 94-90 against Lithuania, and 89-81 versus Argentina. Time will tell if the Americans can turn over a new leaf.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Bradley Beal never requested a trade, remains committed to Wizards

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This NBA offseason has been a frustrating one for some die-hard fans, especially Washington Wizards‘ fans. On June 18, 2021, news broke concerning shooting guard Bradley Beal announcing his commitment to play for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. A few weeks ago, it was reported by USA Basketball that Beal would not play in the Tokyo Olympics. And, this was because the 28-year-old three-time NBA All-Star had to enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Missouri native.

In an interview published by CBS Sports on July 15, 2021, regarding the chance to play for USA Basketball, Beal told CBS’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “It’s an honor. It’s something that you take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago (in the 2019 FIBA World Cup), and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours.”

In 2010, Beal won the FIBA-Under 17 World Cup MVP. Though, everyone can see his passion for basketball. Needless to say, it is an awful experience for any athlete to have to bow out of the Olympics. In addition to this unfortunate news, there is all kinds of speculation across the Internet concerning Beal’s future with the Wizards. From Boston.com, it was reported two days ago that Beal would welcome a trade if he was moved to the Boston Celtics. The report also included three other teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers. This latest news information was originally reported by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Last Saturday, Fischer stated, “Boston’s path to securing Beal would appear far more costly, as the Celtics’ offer almost certainly has to include Jaylen Brown and all of their future draft picks they are able to part with.”

Although the report could still be accurate, many fans are asking for more evidence to help support this claim. This is Beal’s team; he was drafted by Washington third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Would the Wizards be wiling to trade their star player for Jaylen Brown and potential future draft picks? This remains to be seen. Plus, everyone should keep in mind that although Beal was open to a trade, at least he never demanded an immediate trade. The latest news is likely just trade rumors and meaningless gossip.

Moreover, the 2020-21 Wizards finished 34-38 (.472), ranking third in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. The team lost four games to one in the first round of the postseason against the 76ers. The Wizards have not appeared in the NBA Finals since the 1978-79 season, and they have not won the championship since the 1977-78 season, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 105-99. Not to mention, the Wizards were called the Bullets back then.

After the season ended, the organization agreed to part ways with head coach Scott Brooks. Perhaps Coach Brooks leaving the team is leading Beal to ask more questions about his own future. According to one report by NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk, Beal was irked over the organization hiring Wes Unseld Jr. over Sam Cassell for the vacant head coach position. How much does this play into trade talks?

Well, we all know that Beal is a competitive player, so three consecutive losing seasons by Washington might not be cutting it for him. Then again, a great player should be willing to give a new coach a chance. Last season, in 60 games played, the six-foot-three guard averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The 9-year NBA veteran also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the 2021 All-Star Game, in 31 minutes played, Beal scored 26 points.

On October 17, 2019, Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension with Washington. He earned $28.7 million this past season, and he will earn $34.5 million in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Beal’s player option for the 2022-23 season is also $37.2 million. So, folks should keep in mind that Beal is still showing his loyalty to the Wizards. He is only considering a trade request before the draft. The key word here is “considering.” Having said this, not even LeBron James is safe from a trade in this league. Ok, maybe only James is safe.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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